TRINITY — Just a few steps from the crash scene, in the sprawling worship center of Generations Christian Church, students crowded the aisles leading to the white casket.
Cierra Mamonoff, 15, lay between a dozen large bouquets of roses at the head of the sanctuary. Wednesday morning, while walking with her friends, she had been hit and killed trying to cross the four lanes of Little Road. Lead pastor Greg Johnson was just pulling into church that morning when he saw her on the ground, clinging to life.
Johnson stood Monday afternoon before 1,000 people — Cierra's friends and family members packed into pews and standing along the walls. Most were students, out of class from a mile up the road at J.W. Mitchell High School, where Cierra had been a sophomore.
"Every one of you is here because in some way, Cierra's life touched yours," Johnson said, his image projected to the overflow seating outside the sanctuary.
"I think memory is one of God's greatest gifts to us," he said. "It is a time to remember.''
Cierra had been an honor student, a bubbly social butterfly, a varsity cheerleader.
"From the moment I met her, I knew that she was special, but I never imagined the impact she would have on my life," said Mitchell cheer coach Jennifer Reed, holding back tears. "Cierra was the kindest, funniest and most unselfish person that I have ever been blessed to know. … In just 15 short years, she brightened each of our lives with a contagious laughter and unconditional love."
Hundreds of photos captured Cierra on memory boards outside the sanctuary. The girl known as "CJ" could be seen smiling with her friends, primping in dresses or sticking her tongue out at one of the girls' raucous sleepovers.
"She always knew how to bring a smile out of anyone," said Wade Hooper, her cousin. "On that dreadful morning … God requested a perfect angel, and that is what he received. Rest in peace, Cierra-Jordan Angel Mamonoff. I love you, little cousin."
After the funeral, eight Mitchell boys carried Cierra's casket to a hearse below the oaks. Her fellow cheerleaders, in their black and gold skirts, waited to say their final goodbyes.